Fantasy guy vs. reality guy

Dear Meredith,

This summer I reconnected with an old acquaintance and we've been dating since early October. On paper, things are going great. We've been really communicative and honest with each other about what we want. One thing we share is that we're both hesitant to jump into a committed relationship. We both would prefer our next long-term relationship lead to marriage (I'm 30, he's 34, we've both had a couple of thought-they-were-the-ones).

However, we're both focusing on pretty major career, self-improvement, and home ownership goals at the moment and don't think we're quite where we need to be to start that kind of relationship. I do think we fit each other's ideas of "marriage material" though, and I could see this progressing there eventually. We agreed that we are not exclusive, and that neither of us wants to know what the other is doing unless it starts to affect us together. There are just two slight problems.

Problem 1 is that I don't feel sparks. I think he's a great guy, he's funny, caring, passionate, has values I respect, is a great communicator, is responsible, and has strong opinions without being overbearing. We have enough similar interests to bond over, while having enough different ones that we are constantly exposing each other to new things. Physically, we're really compatible. He says and does little things that make me get mushy. But I just don't feel over the moon.

I'm having trouble discerning how much of that is just a feeling that's either there or not, and how much it can grow over time. I also think I may not be feeling sparks because I'm trying to remind myself that neither of us is in a position to dive head first into this, and we're not exclusive. After all, we've only been dating a little less than two months. I tend to get into relationships that go from 0 to 60 in the span of a week, which hasn't worked out well in the past, so I'm trying to exert more caution here.

Problem 2 is that within a week of our first date, I went to a club with some friends and met a guy. I have never, ever met someone at a bar or club, but we had an instant connection and I took him home. The night was a complete fairy tale. This guy was unreal, like someone took a list out of my head and made it exist. Except he's in his mid- 20s, in grad school, partying hard, and planning to move across the country when he graduates in a year. But he's made me realize there is such a thing as instant sparks, and perhaps I shouldn't settle for less than that.

I drove him to his place in the morning and gave him my number, but a month and a half later he still hasn't called. We actually live very close to each other, and we have a contact in common, so I could track him down if I wanted to. Some of my friends think I should let it go at what it was and treasure the moment that I got to have. Some think I should track him down and pursue this as hard as I can, because a feeling like that is once in a lifetime. I'm torn because I don't think "this is what true love is, we're meant to be together." I think "something like that can't be sustainable, reality would shatter it, and even if I still felt the same after several dates, we're not in the same place in life right now." I fully intended to take it at face value and have a great memory, but I still can’t stop thinking about it.

So I'm super confused. Was I only able to have such crazy sparks with club guy because I wasn't expecting anything more than a night? Should I track him down romantic dramedy-style to try to chase a fantasy? Am I not going to be able to feel sparks with my main guy because part of me is still thinking about club guy? Should I try to forget about club guy and keep things slow and casual with my main guy and see where it goes? And, even though my main guy doesn't want to know what else I may have going on, should I do what my instinct keeps telling me to and my brain keeps screaming not to, which is tell him about club guy and try to talk this out with him?

– Sparks vs. Stability, Somerville

Let club guy be a memory, SVS. He has your number and hasn't used it, probably because he knows he can't do anything productive with it. You want a serious relationship, which means club guy is not on the table. (I mean, we're calling him "club guy." That says it all.)

As for MG (main guy), give it another month -- or maybe two because of the holidays. By January, you should want more of him. More commitment. More time. More laughs. If you don't, let him go. It's that simple.

It'll help if you stop evaluating MG as marriage material. I understand that you want your next relationship to last forever, but you can't go into any new partnership with that attitude. I get the feeling that you're both thinking too much, evaluating each other too harshly, making too many rules, and stifling your growth as a couple. If you want to know what exclusivity feels like with this guy, just ask. If you want to talk about where you stand with each other, go for it. If you don't like the boundaries -- or the expectations -- speak up.

Whatever you do, don't tell MG about club guy. Club guy is a unicorn. Let him gallop away.

Readers? Should she find club guy? Is she tentative about main guy because of the boundaries? Should she be in this relationship? Help.

– Meredith